Neo-Economics: Saving is Sin, Spending is Virtue

Japanese save a lot. They do not spend much. Also Japan exports far more than it imports. Has an annual trade surplus of over $100 billions, that is Rs. 5 lakh crores. Yet Japanese economy is considered weak, even collapsing. Americans spend, save little. Also US imports more than it exports. Has an annual trade deficit of over $400 billions, that is, over Rs 20 lakh crores. Yet the American economy is considered strong and trusted to get stronger. Indeed a contrast.

But where from do Americans get money to spend? They borrow from Japan, China and even India. Virtually others save the US to spend. Global savings are mostly invested in US, in dollars. India itself keeps its foreign currency assets of over $50 billions in US securities. China has sunk over $160 billions in US securities. Japan’s stakes in US securities is in trillions.

Result. The US has taken over $5 trillions from the world. Want to know it in rupees? Rs 2,50,000 crore crossed. So as the world saves for US; Americans spend freely. Today, to keep the US consumption going that is for the US economy work, other countries have to remit $180 billions every quarter, that is, $2 billions a day, to US$. Otherwise the US economy would go for a six. So will be the global economy. The result will be no different if US consumers begin consuming less.

A Chinese economist asked a neat question. Who has invested more, US in China or, China in US? The US has invested in China less than half of what China has invested in US. The same is the case with us. We have invested in US over $50 billions. But the US has invested less than $20 billions in India.

Why the world is after US? The secret lies in the American spend, in that they hardly save. In fact they use their credit cards to spend their future income. That the US spends is what makes US attractive to the world to export to US. So, US imports more than it exports year after year.

The result. The world is dependent on US consumption for its growth. By its deepening culture of consumption, it has habituated the world to feed on its consumption. But as it needs money to finance its consumption, the world provides the money. It is like a shopkeeper providing money to a customer so that the customer keeps buying from the shop. The customer will not busy, the shop will have not business, unless the shopkeeper funds him. The US is like the lucky customer. And the world is like the helpless shopkeeper-financier.

Who is America’s biggest shopkeeper financier? Japan. Yet it is Japan, which regarded as weak. Modern economist complain that Japanese do not spend, so they do not grow. To force them spend, the Japanese government exerted. Reduced the saving rates, even charged the savers. Even then the Japanese did not spend. Their traditional postal savings alone is over $2.2 billions. That is, Rs 60 lakh crores, about 8 times the GDP of India. Thus savings, far from being the strength of Japan, has become its pain.

What is the lesson? That is, a nation cannot grow unless the people spend, not sava. Not just spend, but borrow and spend. Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous India-born economist in US, told to Dr. Manmohan Singh that Indians wastefully save. Ask them to spend, he said. On imported cars and, seriously, even on cosmetics! This, he counselled, will put India on a growth curve. But like Japanese we too are not obliging.

Modernists may not, but one who has read the Mahahbharata will, know. A Rishi by name Charuvaka gave the same advice when Pandavas were around, which many modern economists are giving today. He told the people to spend and be happy. If need be by borrowing. No need to repay, if you cannot, he counselled. No sin would attach, he assured. Fortunately his advice was rejected by us thousands of years back. That is why perhaps we are alive as a nation. Our old companions are in archives today.

Now we have the very same advice. That is saving is sin and spending is virtue. This is central to neo-economists, Caution. Before you follow this neo-Charuvakas, get some fools to save so that you can borrow from them and spend after you exhaust your savings. This is what US has done in the last two decades.

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